Sunday, September 19, 2021

I’m a Pencil of the Week Cover Girl

My cover of Pencil of the Week and a couple of remaining stubs I used to hand-color it!
Now that the issue has released, I can finally reveal a project I worked on all summer! More than six months ago, Ed Kemp contacted me about collaborating on an issue of the unique zine he writes and publishes, Pencil of the Week. Possibly the first-ever zine of pencil reviews, PotW offers Ed’s down-to-earth, bluntly stated, no-bull opinions of the many graphite pencils he uses daily on the job and elsewhere. A happy reader and subscriber for a while, I was thrilled when he proposed working on a project together!

Naturally, being of the colored pencil persuasion, I had suggested a special edition of reviews of red/blue bicolor editing pencils (you know how much I love those), which I knew he used. We went back and forth with ideas, and eventually I developed a cover design for issue No. 15.5. Since zines tend to be of a handmade nature (Ed handwrites all the pages, which he then photocopies, collates, folds and staples to produce each issue), I decided I would hand-color the first 64 covers. For copies he sells after those sell out, I also produced a color digital version that he can print from.

Testing reds and blues

In my excitement, one thing I had not considered until after I made the proposal was that typical copier paper is terrible to color on with colored pencils. It has almost no tooth, and unlike on smooth drawing papers, pigment seems to slide instead of adhering. I went to my local FedEx Office store for some paper samples. I also tested a number of different colored pencils in my collection to see which would be best on the less-than-ideal paper and to find just the right shades of blue and red. Prismacolor was my choice – for the right colors, the right softness with the paper, and ease of replacing singles (since I knew I would burn through several pencils).

Although I still wouldn’t recommend it for drawing with colored pencils, the 32-pound white seemed to have the most accommodating surface. I photocopied the line drawing onto the paper 2-up, and then the fun could begin! I spent many happy summer days out on our shady back deck coloring the covers.

Happy days on our shady deck.

64 hand-colored covers later, my part of the project is complete!

I just received my copies of 15.5, and it’s a blast to read Ed’s ranked reviews of 15 red/blue editing pencils, including the stunning surprise No. 1 – a red/blue I hadn’t tried! But Ed kindly sent me some, and it’s fantastic to use as well as beautiful!

Check out the red and blue staples! Edition numbers handwritten by Ed!

Which pencil is it? Order an issue to find out. 😉 If you hurry, you might still get a hand-colored cover. And each order of No. 15.5 comes with No. 15, too!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The K in CMYK


9/13/21 Crown Hill neighborhood

On an errand in the Crown Hill neighborhood, I thought I’d do some leaf peeping and sketching on the way home, but even without fall color, this stand of big old trees caught my eye.

In compositions like this, the Jeep and other cars are important contextual elements, but I don’t want whatever color I put on them to pull the eye away from the part that caught my eye. I tend to draw them in neutral gray, but sometimes that doesn’t seem strong enough. As I mentioned recently, I have been trying black lately as my neutral dark value color. I go back and forth on whether I like it, and in this case, I do. It occurs to me that the K in CMYK (which is the basis of the primary triad I have been experimenting with) represents black (it actually stands for key color), so maybe black makes sense.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Small Stories


9/3/21 Central Market
A man in a waiting room. A free toilet on the sidewalk (“Works great!” the sign reassures me). A live lobster in a tank at Central Market. The world is full of small stories for those who look for them with a sketchbook.

8/13/21 A doctor's waiting room

8/27/21 Maple Leaf

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Back to the Zoo


9/10/21 Humboldt penguin
Animals have always been a favorite sketching subject. During my first couple years of sketching, I spent a lot of spring and summer days at the Woodland Park Zoo. Even in cold, wet weather, I headed straight for sheltered areas and some happy sketching time. I think the zoo is where I first began gaining experience in life drawing – life that moves quickly and doesn’t pose. Back then, I was still a bit self-conscious sketching on city sidewalks, but I felt relaxed at the zoo, where it seemed natural to spend time observing animals by sketching. As I grew more comfortable sketching in different urban environments, I spent less time at the zoo, but I still love drawing animals.

One day recently, I realized that it had been more than two years since I last sketched at the zoo. Now that school is back on, the weekday crowds are gone. We had let our membership lapse during the pandemic, but last week we renewed it and made our first post-vax visit.

Compared to the Before Times, I didn’t feel I could leisurely linger at exhibits as I used to because most visitors are courteously distancing, and we felt compelled to keep moving. Even so, I managed to grab these gestures quickly. Compared to jays and squirrels, these furry and feathered critters were sloth-like! I hope to make a few more visits before the weather goes bad.

Gray wolf

Great gray owl

Steller's sea eagle

I left most of the photography to Greg, but I did snap this one of a pair of
gray wolves. We saw three that day.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Backyard Diners


9/9/21 Steller's jay

Nearly every day this summer, we’ve been having our lunches out on the back deck. Most days, our neighborhood Steller’s jays join us: When they hear us through the open kitchen door prepping our lunches, they stand on the deck railing, quietly waiting. They know we’ll be out soon, peanuts in hand. We’ve seen as many as four at a time at our makeshift feeder.

Once in a while, our local squirrels try to get in on the action. We don’t make an effort to feed them, but they and the jays seem to coexist in a non-hostile manner, so we don’t mind if they grab a few peanuts for themselves.

9/9/21 Our local squirrel

Meanwhile, Greg and I are busily grabbing, too – I, my pencil; he, his camera. Some cold and rainy day this winter, I’ll probably use one of his photos to draw a squirrel or jay, wistfully remembering these lovely summer days that are likely to end soon.



Sunday, September 12, 2021

Morgan at Gas Works


9/9/21 Morgan (about 15 and 4 minutes)

The plein air painters and I were treated to yet another fabulous morning at Gas Works Park, where model Morgan dressed as a colorful rollerskater. (Bonus for Morgan: She got to skate around the park during her breaks!) Although I usually walk around the model’s single long pose and try various angles, this time I liked her foreshortened leg from the first angle I chose well enough that I stayed there through a few sittings.

About 20 minutes

About 20 minutes

During one of Morgan’s breaks, I faced some of the gas works partially covered with ivy and other plants. With a soft ArtGraf carbon pencil, details are not possible, so the strange gas works take on intriguing abstract shapes. They are so much fun to sketch!

Gas works

My favorite sketch of the morning was this one of Steve, whose strong painting stance was, by that point, more interesting than the model.

Steve painting Morgan (20 minutes)

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Late Summer at Green Lake (and Permanent Blue)


9/8/21 Green Lake
Every day now I imagine that our weather will change, and we’ll head straight into fall’s wet, gray, relentless gloom. Looking around at all the parched, yellow grass and singed trees, I would welcome such weather with relief, yet I also can’t help but rejoice whenever the sunshine continues: It’s a Pacific Northwest sketcher’s constant ambivalence.

Last Wednesday morning at Green Lake, it was softly breezy and 71 degrees. I stood in the full sun to make this sketch without breaking a sweat. My walk home was just as comfortable and pleasant. It’s hard to give this up.

Technical note: Even though I was skeptical, I tried yet another blue: Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle’s Permanent Blue (670). I haven’t had much use for this blue, which is dark and subdued when dry (the darkest shadows under the trees where I mixed it with Purplish Red), but when activated, it becomes a bright turquoise (though my scanner doesn’t seem able to show it accurately). As I expected, the green I got when I mixed it with Lemon Yellow isn’t right.

Museum Aquarelle Permanent Blue (670) mixed with Purplish Red and Lemon Yellow

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